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Bay Area Pastors Rally Against COVID-19 Church Closure, Insist They'll Reopen By End Of May

OAKLAND (KPIX 5) -- Representatives for churches across the state of California -- including the Bay Area -- united on Thursday to rally, calling on Governor Gavin Newsom to allow them to reopen their doors.

The group of pastors, priests and church leaders held a press conference at Oakland's Acts Full Gospel Church on Thursday afternoon and said even if they don't have Newsom's blessing, they will reopen on May 31st. The pastors and their organizations represent hundreds of churches up and down California.

"We'll have the bathrooms, and the pews, and everything all sanitized for the next service. And we'll do that [after each service]. We also will provide gloves and masks for all the people that come," said Bishop Bob Jackson, the leader of Acts Full Gospel.

Bishop Jackson said they will also increase the number of services to allow for social distancing for its 6,000 parishioners. Acts Full Gospel is the biggest church in Oakland with 4,000 seats inside the building.

But the governor has said he will not allow church gatherings anytime soon. He cited the fact that many church goers are seniors and people with pre-existing medical conditions as presenting a significant danger.

One pastor at the press conference pleaded for a chance to reopen now.

"We are essential. And we want the governor to understand that," he said. "Move us to Stage 2 and let us help our cities. Let us help our communities."

"We weep with people, we grieve with people. How can we not be essential? The government doesn't show up on your door, when like my wife and I, when we lost two our two children in pregnancy," said Pastor Jim Doman from Church United.

The pastors said online services such as ones held using Zoom just don't cut it. Church for them is a life-sustaining place for their members, the so-called food for their soul.

"If the hospitals are essential for the body of the people, the churches are essential for the spirit of the people," said Bishop Jackson.

The pastors argued the risk of getting the coronavirus attending church is no greater than going to the grocery store if safety measures are put in place.

"May 31st will be our date. It's the birthday of the church 2,000 years ago. The church was birth. it'll be like the second birth for the church, "said Bishop Jachson.

"Governor Newsom, unlock these doors. Governor Newsom, open up our churches," demanded Neil Mammen, president of Values Advocacy Council.

The church leaders said they are willing to risk jail time to reopen for their parishioners.

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